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Category Archives: Computers

How to not get hacked

Hacking, in the sense of a remote compromise of a networked or local compromise of a computer, is your data being accessed by parties unknown.  Hacking has evolved from simple phone phreaking (ever wonder why cyberphreak.com is spelled with a ph?) to curious individuals, to corporations, to, now, entire governments being behind and subject to hacking.  

I have been using computers for over 30 years and there is one thing I know:  If someone wants your information, they will get your information.  I don’t care how many firewalls or intrusion countermeasures you have, what operating system you are running, or hardware you are running; if it is networked, they can get in.  If they can get local access to your machine, they will get in.  

If it is hopeless, what can you do to keep sensitive information?  You will need 3 things:  A writing implement, such as a pen or pencil, paper, and bad handwriting.  If it really matters, get a blank book, write it down in handwriting only you can read, and put that book in a safe place.  Even if your home is broken into, it will be difficult to decipher the information.  If the book is stolen, well, you know what was written down in there and exactly what was lost.  At least with your poor penmanship, a human will have to painstakingly decipher your chicken scratch.  You can also destroy the book in a fire and grind the ashes.  

If you must use a computer, DO NOT NETWORK THE COMPUTER.  DO NOT INSTALL A WIRELESS CARD.  Have a specific computer that will never be connected to the internet, ever.  Yes, very 1983, but what else can you  do?  DO NOT STORE SENSITIVE FILES ON A HARD DRIVE.  Keep all files, encrypted, on a device that can be easily destroyed.  Something like a micro-SD card.  Tiny enough to hide anywhere, small enough to be destroyed if the need arises.  A cross cut paper shredder will do.  Someone with enough time and money might be able to get information using a scanning electron microscope, then decrypting the data, but, seriously, what are you doing to deserve that kind of attention?

If these steps seem a little extreme, they are.   The paper/book based is my personal choice, and I have really bad handwriting.  It can never be hacked remotely and I don’t write anything down that is illegal anyway, just personal that I don’t want strangers to see.  Turns out that little diary or journal you kept as a kid is the most secure choice after all.

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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Computers, General Comments

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Unexpected Mac User

With all the stupid going on with the election, I have had a few tech updates. First off, I picked up an iMac G3 450 DV, Ruby, for less than 10 dollars at a thrift store. Apparently, it was used in a kindergarten in Morton Grove.  I always loved the look of the old iMacs, but never wanted to spend over $1,000 on a piece of electronics that goes out of date in 18 months.

Cleaned it up, replaced the 64mb of RAM with 1Gig, then replaced the 20G 5400 RPM hard drive with a 40G, 7200 RPM drive. With the bus speeds, I am not going to bother to try to fine a PATA/IDE solid state drive.

I also installed Mac OS 10.3 and Lubuntu 16.04 on there. Lubuntu runs just fine, and I can use the latest software on there. It now proudly inhabits my workshop and is a good music player, a way to take notes, and lightly surf the web for projects I am working on. If I really need power, I just SSH to my desktop machine upstairs and use the iMac as a graphical terminal.  I was going to try to use the Mac OS (9.4 or 10.3) but they have been abandoned a long time ago, and I need a modern web browser.

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In other Mac news, picked up the beautiful Logitech K750-mac solar powered keyboard. All of the Mac mappings work just fun under Linux. It is about the nicest keyboards I have ever used. Super thin and high quality and it charges with room lighting.  I actually don’t mind the Mac layout, a much better use for the function keys, now they are volume control, program launchers, etc.

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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Computers

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Retro-future charm

Retro-future charm

I decided to try something different, and I am not sure if anyone else has tried it. I wanted to take the best word processor that I could find (WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS) and make it compatible with ‘the cloud’. Well, I have found a way to make it work.

For the WordPerfect side of things, it is easy. Found a nice, working copy of 6.0 and installed it and use it via DosBOX. It is super stable, has an unobtrusive interface, and the best spell checker, even after 20 years.

Then, signed up for Dropbox and installed the client on all the computers that I use. Finally, I make sure DosBOX runs from the Dropbox folder. DOS is shockingly good on space, even with a bunch of games installed, and Windows 3.1, it only takes a small percentage of my Dropbox quota. So, now, when I fire up my WordPerfect for DOS, every thing I save to my “C:” drive is synchronized with my Dropbox storage. I can start a blog post on my netbook, and finish it on my home computer, right where I left off.

It is a little hokey, but it works really well and any changes I make, like install a new game, save my progress, etc. in a DOS application is automatically synchronized to all of my computers. Even using the small 2 gigs of space, that is more than enough for my needs. Anyone else doing something like this? Let me know in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Computers

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Returning to my roots.

I have been using computers a long time, and my biggest gripe is something as simple as a decent word processor. Frankly, trying to get something typed using a modern program like Word or Open or Libre office is an exercise is distraction. So, I have decided to return to my roots, and create in the program that I originally learned word processing on, Word Perfect for DOS. Using the DOSBox emulator, I was able to find an abondonware site that had copies of the original floppies. It runs like a dream. The great thing is that, in full screen mode, I am free from all the distractions. All I can see is this simple interface. It does have all the features (and in some cases more) than any word processor, including spell and grammar checker, WYSIWYG view, and a macros which still have not been matched. Heck, it even has reveal codes, which really allows you to modify every aspect of a document.

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So, here I am, typing away at the same word processor I used in college, and high school, and you know what, it feels good. The simple cyan screen is easier on the eyes than the blinding white with black text. It may be great that it looks like a piece of paper, but with modern monitors, it is really hard on my old eyes. Also, with the limited resolution, the characters are just plain huge on the screen. I like to type without my glasses on, so this really is a blessing. I can see why some writers still use DOS based word processing. It is fast, great for touch typists and bad spellers. I don’t miss the red squiggly at all. I know you can turn it off, but it is just more natural this way.

Luckily, modern word processors running under Linux can easily read WordPerfect format files WordPerfect can also write and read Rich Text Format, which has be a standard for over 20 years. I really have to give this old workhorse one thing, it is stable and very fast. I am very impressed with how complete a program WordPerfect is, with a built in file manager, graphical mode, and a very impressive database of printers. I prefer the postscript pass through, just print to that printer and you can easily print to a modern printer. I am sure if I had an old computer I could find some printer it would work with.

 

So, if you need a fast, simple, but feature rich word processor, take a look at good, old WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS on abandonware sites. It works like a charm under DOSBox. Even though it is 20 years old, it gets the job done. You will get some odd stares when people see what you are using, but I like tools that work and stay out of my way. I grew up on, so why reinvent the wheel? I do think younger users will be surprised how well it works. I wrote this blog post using it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in antique, Computers

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Blogging on the go

Earlier this week I received an unexpected gift, an Adesso bluetooth keyboard.  I have really been wanting a full keyboard for my phone or Palm Pilot, so now I finally have something usable.

The keys are about 3/4 size, about the same as a mini laptop or netbook, with good tactile response.  The overall height is amazingly thin, around a quarter of an inch!  It charges via USB, but looks like it works via bluetooth only.  I will post a follow up later once I have used it a while and get to know what the battery life is like.  For now, it is a great little toy, and large enough to touch type on.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Computers, On the Go

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